In the haunting and provocative animated film, Abruptio, writer/director/editor/cinematographer Evan Marlowe invites viewers on a chilling journey into the mind of protagonist Lester Hackel (James Marsters). As the film begins, Hackel confesses at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting to hearing voices in his head, which Marlowe visually represents through unsettling puppetry. Despite Hackel’s attempts to give up drinking and stabilize his life, he quickly finds himself caught in a deadly game controlled by an unknown force. He and his friend Danny (Jordan Peele) have bombs implanted in their necks and are forced to execute increasingly bizarre and violent tasks, with failure resulting in a gruesome death.
As Hackel spirals further into this surreal nightmare, Marlowe masterfully blurs the lines between reality and fantasy. Hackel’s puppetry, along with the other puppet characters, gives a sense of eeriness and disorientation that reinforces the overall tone of unease. The film also features an impressive cast of horror icons, including Sid Haig (in his final screen performance), Robert Englund, and Christopher McDonald, who add to the film’s ominous atmosphere.
Marlowe’s script is a blend of psychological horror and social commentary, delving into themes of addiction, control, and existentialism. The film’s darkly comedic moments offer a brief respite from the escalating horror, but Marlowe never lets the audience become too comfortable. With each passing scene, the tension builds until the film’s disturbing and unforgettable conclusion.
In many ways, Abruptio can be compared to Charlie Kaufman’s Anomalisa, another mind-bending and genre-defying film that explores themes of identity, control, and manipulation. Both films share a penchant for surrealism and a willingness to push the boundaries of conventional storytelling. However, Abruptio distinguishes itself with its visceral intensity and its ability to seamlessly blend genres.
In the hands of a lesser filmmaker, Abruptio could easily become a disjointed mess, but Marlowe’s deft direction and innovative use of puppetry make for a uniquely unsettling cinematic experience. With its mix of surreal visuals and psychological terror, Abruptio is a must-see for horror fans looking for something truly original.
Abruptio is playing tonight at Fantaspoa (the biggest genre film festival in Latin America), and is currently making its way through the world festival circuit ahead of release.